If you thought things couldn’t get worse for the beleaguered ASQ, you’d be wrong. A recent memo issued by Interim CEO (and ASQ Corporate Counsel) Ann Jordan reveals they are entirely off the rails, and headed for the cliff.
In a July 15th missive issued through the “Component Relations” department — another bureaucratic division that smacks of Soviet bloat — Jordan dropped one bit of bad news after another. First, Jordan announced ASQ saw a whopping 45% decline in revenue, which she blames on COVID-19:
In the first half of 2020, ASQ experienced a 45% decline in budgeted revenue. This $5.8M shortfall resulted from the cancellation of in-person activities, including WCQI and onsite and public training courses. To counter these losses, ASQ worked immediately and aggressively to cut costs, convert to virtual formats, and accelerate the development of new programs. Through May, we reduced operational expenses by a remarkable $4.6M. To clarify, the reduction does not include any TCC and GCC actions to curb member unit spend or the allotment suspension.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Jordan then admitted they had to cut staff at the ASQ
In April, 50% of staff were limited to a 30-hour work week for a three-month time period to align with the cancellation of WCQI and other Society activities. I personally took a 25% salary cut during this time, and we eliminated all bonus and merit programs for 2020. Last week, we also made the hard decision to announce a staff restructure which will include the eliminationof certain staff roles. The impacted team members will end their employment with ASQ on July 31. The Component Relations, Membership and Events staff who regularly support member leaders remain unchanged, and we are working to transition our departing team members with the utmost dignity and respect.
Keep in mind, when Jordan says she took a “25% salary cut,” she doesn’t mention that her new salary included not only a boost from her prior position, but also an across-the-board raise at the same time as she was laying off people. As ASQ’s Corporate Counsel (their lawyer), Jordan only pulled in $68,000 per year in 2018. Immediately upon taking over as ASQ Interim CEO, she gave herself a whopping 155% raise, taking in a new salary of $171,000. That number likely has gone up since 2018, but let’s pretend for a moment that it hasn’t. In that case, a “25% salary cut” means Jordan is still making $128,250 per year, which is still almost double from what she was making as ASQ Corporate Counsel.
Only at ASQ can an executive give themselves a “cut” and make more money in the process. Those fired ASQ staffers — mostly all white, blonde, midwestern “Karens” — should go home and explain to their families that they don’t have a job anymore not because of COVID, but because the executives increased their salary budget by over $2.1 million in 2018 alone.
I’m no math expert, but suddenly the $5.8M “shortfall” starts to shrink when you subtract the executive salary raises. Jordan also provides a glimpse are more recent numbers, saying, “Prior to the financial hardships of the pandemic, ASQ faced a $3.4M operating deficit for 2020, which is not acceptable.” Again, she makes no reference to the executive raises.
Payday for Consultants
Jordan then wrote, “A significant portion of this projection was attributed to overhead and external costs associated with the development and delivery model for our training courses.” This, as expected, was another unforced error brought on by Jordan and her cohort Jim Templin. ASQ’s 2018 tax returns — the most recent we have — show the society voluntarily spent millions of dollars on outside consulting firms like Prometric and Marketing General. These consulting companies were brought on to (… wait for it…) help with the development and delivery model for training courses. Prometric, for example, was paid $900,000 in one year along to operate “testing centers” to support ASQ certification and training tests, something that was previously done by the Sections… for free.
You can’t make this shit up.
Jordan then admitted that ASQ — not exactly a “small business” — won a pandemic related SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to cover payroll. Not only is that an affront to the millions of small companies that actually needed PPP loans and couldn’t get them because big corporations stole the money instead, but remember that ASQ is a not-for-profit that doesn’t pay taxes. That means it paid exactly ZERO into the Federal Government whose money it just took. And, the SBA website could not find any records that ASQ is a registered “small business” anyway. (Having said that, it’s not demonstrative; the SBA listings are not assured to be accurate, even by the SBA itself, and SBA registration isn’t a requirement for PPP recipients. The point is that ASQ is not, by any stretch, a “small business.”)
Even with the loan — the value of which we don’t currently know — Jordan admits it will be exhausted by July.
So somewhere in Jordan’s keen legal mind, she thought it made more sense to throw millions of dollars at private consultants to do stuff that ASQ was already doing itself. Then, she gave herself a raise, took out a government loan that ASQ never paid into and will never pay back, and then fired staff afterward.
Hold on, because it just keeps getting worse.
Continuing to dubiously blame COVID, Jordan predicts an even darker future:
As COVID-19 cases escalate across the country, we anticipate that ASQ revenue will continue to decline for the second half of the year and could add another $3M in loss to the $5.8M shortfall from Q1 and Q2.
So we are now up to a whopping $8.8 million hit to ASQ, and we’re only halfway through 2020.
Jordan, presumably polishing her scythe and getting fitted for an all-black cloak, continued:
Overall, despite our aggressive expense reduction efforts, the 2020 budgeted deficit of $3.4M coupled with the unexpected revenue loss means ASQ will need to use Society reserve funds during the second half of the year to continue its daily operations. Again, the Q3 and Q4 costs savings do not include any TCC or GCC actions to curb member unit spend or the allotment suspension. The projected reserve fund would not impact the approximate $8M of funds collectively held by Sections ($7M) and divisions ($1M) at this time or separate unit scholarship funds.
Pardon me if I’m cynical, but we all know the section and division funds are going to be tapped into. There’s no way around this, whether it happens in 2020 or early 2021. It will be the only money ASQ has left, after all.
Rumors are, however, that ASQ is already prepping to file bankruptcy. In the US there are two types of bankruptcy. The first (Chapter 11) allows the company to “restructure” and make arrangements to pay its debts in a formal, structured manner over time. The second (Chapter 7) eliminates all problems by liquidating the organization entirely. The problems ASQ is facing, however, are not related to debts. The sale of ANAB and the forced takeover of Section funds already resolved their debt problems. Now, Jordan and Templin find they can’t manage “daily operations,” so the only bankruptcy that makes sense would be Chapter 7, which means ASQ shuts down for good.
Suddenly, the plan to spin off ASQ into another organization — “ASQ Excellence” — makes sense. The execs can simply move to the new company, which Templin has already done by taking on the role of CEO, and continue raking in money. ASQ Excellence was formed to manage the sale of ASQ products but also the testing and certification. Now remember that the original ASQ paid millions in consulting firms related to these programs, but it will be ASQ Excellence who will see benefits, while having paid nothing. It all starts to look like a shell game, with dubious legality. (We can’t know for sure until ASQ Excellence files its first public tax filings, assuming it even does.)
Which means ASQ will have stopped being a membership society outright, and just another multilevel marketing outfit.
ASQ Still a Haven for White Supremacists
Oh, yes, and ASQ still continues to enrage members and alienate people of color with their phony statement against racism. If you recall, years of racist and sexist commentary by ASQ leaders and members led Oxebridge to push them to update their Code of Ethics and denounce racism. They updated the Code to prohibit “discrimination,” and then — some 850+ days later — finally issued a statement claiming they would take action against racists in their midst. But it was all fake, as expected. As recently as a few weeks ago, a senior ASQ leader was found posting hateful and racist attacks against Black Lives Matters members, implying that Blacks are not actually people, but animals. He then argued they should be doxxed and called BLM a hate group. A quick search showed a handful of other ASQ members with similar views, posting publicly and proudly, without any fear that ASQ would take action to stop such things. ASQ Fellows and senior members like Paul Palmes and Alka Jarvis continue to support a racist conspiracy theorist who has now launched a series of homophobic videos targeting me, in which I am referred to as a “queen” or “Chrissy the sissy.” Sigh.
And, sure enough, ASQ and its Board — led by Google’s Austin Lin — have refused to take action. It was Lin who signed the fake ASQ statement against racism, apparently to shut Oxebridge up already, and to maintain his liberal Silicon Valley street cred within Google. Let’s be real clear: Lin’s craven cowardice means he is personally enabling racism and sexism in his ranks, and no amount of self-congratulatory websites is going to fix that fact. Lin may well be the “first Asian American” to serve as ASQ Board Chair, but he’s lost all credibility on race if he won’t take action against white supremacists, per his own declaration to do so. He could have resigned or just shut the fuck up, but now he’s made his bed. But Lin wouldn’t be the first Asian American to give less than a shit about the plight of Black Americans, and to perpetuate the myth of the “model minority.”
(BTW, some ASQ members have referred to Asian Americans as “gooks” and “chinks,” so maybe Lin could care — at least — about his own people?)
Jordan and Templin have yet to work out that maybe appealing to white supremacists could be a factor in why ASQ has lost over 20,000 members in recent years, and is facing utter financial ruin. You think maybe that might have something to do with it? Why would any person of color join ASQ?
Now let’s address this COVID red herring, which Jordan mentions no less than four times in her memo. ASQ has provided training, testing and certifications as a major source of its revenue. Ignoring the fact that these certificates are largely bullshit, why did ASQ rely on “in-person training” sessions and testing to begin with? Sure, manufacturing companies with physical plants and buildings got caught flat-footed during the pandemic. But why, in the 21st century, was ASQ still relying on physical training sessions with on-site classrooms? That hasn’t made sense for at least ten years now. So any “losses” ASQ faces now related to cancellation on in-person events was wholly avoidable in the first place. Imagine the cost savings if ASQ had transitioned to online courses back in 2010!
Next, ASQ not only forced the Sections to surrender their local bank accounts, but also shut down their locally-run Section websites. ASQ argued this was to be more efficient, but we all know this was done to “centralize” communications by funneling all communication through the central “MyASQ” website run by HQ. Immediately thereafter, arrogant ASQ staffers like Trish Borzon and Cynthia Nazario started censoring ASQ member communications and deleting comments they didn’t like. Simply suggesting that ASQ offer low-cost supplemental health insurance got me banned from the MyASQ platform within a few days, and that suggestion was made before COVID. ASQ could have been the hero during the pandemic, rather than the villain, had they listened to that advice! The ranks of ASQ members would be increasing, not declining, if they had switched to a membership model that served members, rather than treated them as multilevel marketing dupes.
So now the discussion forums — barely visited as they are — are populated only with praise posts by suck-ups and toadies. And it costs money. The sections previously operated their own websites at very low cost, using funds collected by their local members, and it was entirely free for ASQ HQ. Now, ASQ has to pay to manage a global internet portal that houses all that activity, and pay staffers like Borzon and Nazario to censor content deemed unacceptable to the
Politburo ASQ headquarters. That was yet another unforced error that increased the “daily operating expenses” that ASQ now finds it can’t pay for.
Oh, and ASQ, its leadership and Board are all facing possible investigations for financial fraud. Yikes.
No Easy Way Forward
There seems to be no way that ASQ survives this. Blaming COVID is, as a I said, a red herring. The more likely causes are years of financial mismanagement begun by former CEO Paul Borawski and then worsened under the leadership of William Troy (now ousted). Then, all possible avenues of correction were bungled by Templin and Jordan, who seem dead-set on lining their own pockets while their house collapses around them. Next, ASQ failed to move to remote services at least ten years before COVID, and refused to switch to a member service model, relying instead on cultish MLM tactics like Amway or Herbalife. Next, ASQ failed to read the current cultural environment, and its nearly all-white Karen staff and right-wing leadership allowed horrific racist elements to grow within, alienating people of color entirely. Finally, ASQ spent untold millions on failed attempts to maintain this racist, mismanaged mess, leading to the financial disaster it now finds itself in.
Usually, I offer up solutions at the end of articles like this, but I have been handing over solutions to ASQ for years and have been met only with harassment, doxxing, a ban on appearances, multiple websites dedicated solely to falsely accusing me of crimes and harassing my family, and even threats of physical violence. There are only so many times you can lay out a roadmap for someone, only to have them spit it back at you with contempt.
Maybe it’s time that ASQ died. It would mean one less cult in the world, and would that be so bad?
I hope you’re paying attention, Vince Desmond of CQI. This is your future, too.
About Christopher Paris
Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.